Words & photos: Josh Anderson
The fifth stop of the year on the Freeskiing World Tour went down last weekend at Kirkwood, California. Incidentally, Kirkwood is the home of The Tower Bar and Grill, which is, without a doubt, the home of the biggest, gnarliest plate of nachos on earth. Try it, I dare you, the thing is like three feet tall. The two day FWT competition was preceded by two days of qualifier rounds and a new and impromptu "last chance qualifier" where those riders who were on the bubble of being cut from competition were given a second chance, head-to-head with the other bubble-boys. Why give this second chance? Because it's actually hard to judge when your qualifier is being held under bluebird skies on two feet of fresh, blower pow.
Qualifiers on the best day of skiing I've had all year.
The team of judges got it together and decided to carry over about 40 of the 90 men and eight ladies vying for a spot on the start list for day one on Kirkwood's otherwise permanently closed Cirque, terrain the announcers like to refer to as "forbidden". Anything forbidden is obviously fun so the competition was understandably fierce and the cut-off bloody. I'd like to give some major props to the organizers here for hammering through the day 2 qualifier as a memorial for CR Johnson was held at Squaw Valley that afternoon and the event was completed in time for some in Kirkwood to make it to the North side of the lake in time to attend the emotional event.
Janina Kuzma about to tempt The Cirque.
Now, before I continue, a lot of of NS readers are probably skipping over this article in favor of more appropriately jibby news, so why is this being covered? Well for one, there was coverage of Revelstoke a few months ago, so why not? Skiing is awesome and the big mountain vibe is just as good as the park vibe. Even though events like the K2 Back 9, Red Bull Cold Rush, Line Catcher or Wrangle the Chute are advancing the convergence of park, backcountry and big mountain skiing, the Freeskiing tour tends to hold a reputation of big mountain exclusivity. But that too is changing. Dane Tudor has some FWT titles under his hat. Even PBP crew member Andrew Thomas was at this comp...
Dane Tudor, Leigh Powis and Andrew Thomas. Ski Bowl, 2009.
Mr. Thomas. Kirkwood, 2010.
So now that it's all relevant you should all meet a few more guys on the tour. I present to you Nick Greener, Mike Gardner, Willie Schneider and Chopo Diaz. Gardner was recently featured in Powder as one of the top 20 under-18 skiers in the world.
Greener cork 3 and Gardner. Raw style on raw mountains.
Willie "Hippy" Schneider.
Greener gap and Diaz cork 3.
Day 1 of the competition began on the looker's left side of The Cirque with ladies first, just as they should be, gentlemen. The top three went to Jacqui Edgerly, Crystal Rose Lee and Angel Collinson, respectively, all of whom threw down fast, technical lines through The Cirque's rocky terrain.
Lee and Collinson.
With some weather blowing around the exposed central Sierra peaks, the men got their turn on the peppery, shark infested terrain. A few skis were gouged and lines ruined, but everyone managed to ride away pretty much unscathed. Though one rider did butt-check a rock in his first air and I definitely saw some good ass-grabbing going on as he skied out of the venue. The men finished the day with Aaron Schmidt, Caleb Brown, Dylan Crossman and Lars Chickering-Ayers taking the top four spots. Ayers' run was memorable as he held himself together at very high speed above some pretty large exposures. He was probably just excited about skiing Day 2's even rowdier looker's left terrain.
CJ Wright in the Toilet Bowl, Day 1.
Day 2 got going under unexpectedly clear skies. Though the snow had certainly firmed up in since falling a few days earlier, it was still game on for some big, high speed skiing, including Greener's massive cork 3. Though he didn't stick it, it was still one of the more impressive hits all day. Heavy hitters like Julien Lopez and Arne Backstrom threw down impressive runs but the win went to Dylan Crossman, with the 2 and 3 spots going to Caleb Brown and Mark Welgos on the men's side. The women's podium went to Janina Kuzma, Angel Collinson and Crystal-Rose Lee. A 10 man/5 woman super-final was slated to follow Day 2's run, but some fast moving inclimate weather shut down the men's attempt after a long hike up following a shut-down of the main access "Wall" chair. An afterparty and awards ceremony was also slated as well, and for all I know it was awesome, but four days of skiing and floor surfing shut me down so I came home to write this little saga for you all. Thank you for reading and go schralp some pow!
Luke Hinz, shredding pow since quali. day 1.
Sickbird? Scott McBrayer off the skinny spine.
Carter McMillan and winner Crossman.